S-Class, SL and GLC are just one side of the glittering Mercedes-Benz coin. More than any other automotive manufacturer, the Stuttgart-based brand lives from its magnificent history, which is veritably celebrated at the Classic Center Fellbach.
Since 1993, the Classic Center in Fellbach has been the worldwide focus of Mercedes-Benz automotive authenticity. For those who own a spectacular Mercedes-Benz 600 or wish to restore their Pagoda to its former glory, the workshop is just the place. 'We've certainly seen a change in the type of customer over the years,' explains Klaus Reichert, Director of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, crossing the entrance hall of his dream factory. 'Today, authenticity trumps everything. That was not always the case.'
A spectacularly well-maintained Mercedes-Benz 600.
The glazed area in front of the door to the actual workshop is home to an array of vehicles that make not just Mercedes fans salivate. The visitor's gaze soon turns to a spectacularly well-maintained Mercedes-Benz 600 of the legendary W 100 model series – the absolute embodiment of the state limousine. The black 600 from the Museum's collection was built for Mercedes-Benz in 1979. For the first two years, Mercedes-Benz used this 600 model as a chauffeur-driven saloon for events. In 1981, Mercedes-Benz sold the vehicle to one of its best customers, a car dealer from the Stuttgart area.
The vehicle never moved.
Having bought the vehicle with 54,500 km on the clock, the owner of the dealership stored it professionally in his own showroom. The vehicle never moved. Yet the glittering line-up also includes exemplars of the 300 SL – with open or closed top – and luxury cabriolets of the W 111 model series, whose prices have soared to dizzying heights in recent years.
'The Pagoda is gaining in popularity.'
'The Pagoda is gaining in popularity,' adds Klaus Reichert. 'There's now also a growing demand for factory-restored examples, as is generally true of the SL. Having bought a supposedly well-maintained vehicle on the open market, many people later get a shock when they hear our honest opinion.' Anyone desirous of a proper factory restoration of whatever car must have time as well as plenty of money.
Andreas Häberle, project manager.
If the goal is perfection, it simply takes time.
'A complete factory restoration takes two years.' explains project manager Andreas Häberle in a heavy Swabian accent. 'Although such a job could be rushed through in just over a year, if the goal is perfection, it simply takes time to do the work on the bodyshell with all the trimmings.'
'This is a rather unusual project.'
And time is apparently not an issue for the owners of the exceptional Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL in a strikingly bold mid blue metallic. Probably worth little over 15,000 euros on the market, the car from the French diplomatic service will be restored to new in Fellbach over the next two years. 'This is a rather unusual project,' admits Klaus Reichert, 'but its owners often send us vehicles and they simply want this W 116 to look like new again.'
The main focus is still on luxury models.
Even though Pagodas of model series W 113 or the classic 107 are now rising in value and accounting for a growing number of work orders at the Classic Center in Fellbach, the main focus is still on luxury models, such as the Gullwing and the W 100 state limousine. 'At the technical level, a Mercedes-Benz 600 is extremely complicated,' says Andreas Häberle. 'The vehicle is complex and this is well known. So most people come straight to us. The same is true of the 300 SL.' Almost incidentally, he points out that the state limousine, also an official car of the German government until 1991, in his opinion is still too low in price on the open market – based on its technology and exclusivity. The black 600 is currently up for sale by ALL TIME STARS. 'It's definitely more valuable than others costing significantly more,' says Häberle.
The order books are fuller than ever.
A tour of the workshop is enough to satisfy the visitor that the order books are fuller than ever. Scarcely a square metre of space is left unused. In the odd places that are not taken up by vehicles or replacement parts, the space is used for all kinds of tools or for parking bodyshells. Each of the total of 14 mechanics is a specialist in their field. Before joining the Classic Center, most of them worked at Daimler AG and then graduated out of passion to the workshop in Fellbach.
Klaus Reichert, Director of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center.
An absolute rarity to this day.
Yet, every now and again, even the classically versed Daimler restorers see something to make their eyes pop. Which is just what happened with the Mercedes-Benz 1912 that was brought into the workshop a few days ago from the Museum. In its day, the sublime classic car was a veritable luxury model. The wings are leather-covered and, to make sure that the illustrious passengers in the rear compartment did not freeze, the Daimler was equipped with floor heating. The exhaust gas was used to heat a system of pipes in the undercarriage – an absolute rarity to this day. Even so, Director Klaus Reichert confirms a trend that can be observed also at auction houses around the world: 'Demand for pre-war models is clearly on the wane. We, too, are noticing this.'
The availability of parts is key.
The availability of parts is key to the perfect maintenance and restoration of a classic car. 'Our parts centre in Germersheim holds 52,000 replacement parts, very many of them exclusive to classic models,' says Andreas Häberle. Parts that are no longer available can be reproduced in the original quality. Most reproductions and production reruns relate to safety- or driving-critical parts. Where possible, the original supplier is entrusted with the new production run. Alternatively, over 150 certified sources stand ready.
Not just complete or partial restorations.
Yet the workshop at the Classic Center handles not just complete or partial restorations, but also the repair or remanufacture of engines, transmissions, axles, steering systems and other components, assuming they are no longer available from the Mercedes-Benz replacement parts service. When it comes to expert assessments – investigations to establish authenticity with description of condition and documentation – the Classic Center takes care of the technical side.